Monday, August 09, 2010

Ben Ainslie, the return of the king to the Finn class at Skandia Sail for Gold 2010

[Source: Skandia Sail for Gold 2010] It cannot have been an easy decision for the triple Olympic Gold medalist, Ben Ainslie, to return to the Finn class at Skandia Sail for Gold 2010.
It cannot have been an easy decision for the triple Olympic Gold medalist, Ben Ainslie, to return to the Finn class at Skandia Sail for Gold 2010. Ainslie completely dominated the Finn, unbeaten between 2004 and 2008, winning gold medals at both the bookending Olympic regattas. Ainslie was the man who put the bite into Dennis Connor’s book title, ‘No Excuse to Lose’.

But right now, Ainslie has every excuse to lose; preoccupied with Team Origin campaigns in the TP52, the Louis Vuitton Trophy and the World Match Racing Tour, not to mention the little matter of being eight kilograms under his fighting weight. But an ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta at home, at the venue of the 2012 Games? How could he not compete? How could he not win? But how could he win, after so long out of the boat? Dilemma…

But Ainslie was taking it all in his stride this afternoon, “It’s funny because this morning I was talking to my coach about my goals for the week, and we laughed because normally we wouldn’t worry, I just want to be at the top! It is a very different week for me, because it’s not about where I place, it’s about rejoining the Finn fleet, seeing how it has progressed and learning about the conditions in Weymouth.” And perhaps unsurprisingly, after a shaky first race, Ainslie was right back in the hunt for the second, and finished fourth for the day. Watch this space.

Things went less smoothly for his barely-less-gilded tactician at Team Origin, the double Olympic Gold medalist, Iain Percy, and his crew, Andrew Simpson. They were also returning to the boat after a lay-off due to duties with Team Origin – although not such a long one, they are the reigning Star World Champions. But they broke a forestay before the first race, and had to come ashore to fix it, returning to the line two minutes after everyone else had started the second race - eventually finishing 21st. Simpson said afterwards, “Realistically you can’t predict a forestay break like we had today, there is just an element of bad luck involved in these things but it’s part of the game. But we went out there afterwards, we fought back and managed to take back 17 places.”

The Star fleet was dominated by two more America’s Cup sailors, Hamish Pepper and Craig Monk – the Kiwi duo won both races, an awesome performance in a fleet of this class. But elsewhere, things went better for Skandia Team GBR, with Nic Asher and Elliot Willis sharing the lead in the 470 Men with French duo Pierre Leboucher and Vincent Garos.

Other stand-out performances belong to Udo Hessels and Mischa Rossen in the Sonar class with two bullets. While in the 49er, Frenchmen Manu Dyen and Stephane Christidis scored two seconds. Jonathan Lobert scored a first and a second in the Finn class, while both Marit Bouwmeester and Veronika Fenclova won their two races in their respective Laser Radial fleets to be joint top.



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